By James Harrison
Over the last week, the campaign of House candidate Cynthia Dunbar has challenged hundreds of Republican delegates to the Sixth District Convention as part of what appears to be an attempt to win by systematically excluding fellow party members and driving down turnout. The move followed efforts by her allies to “rig” the convention’s balloting in Dunbar’s favor, prompting RPV to intervene and overturn the attempt, which violated party rules. 
Dunbar campaign representative Diana Shores argued in favor of delegate exclusion, as confirmed in recently-obtained emails between her and the Republican Party of Virginia. The exchange culminated in party leadership blasting Dunbar’s “totally baseless attacks purposely designed to disenfranchise perfectly eligible delegates.”
Hundreds of delegates received emails from the “Dunbar Campaign Credentials” account challenging their ability to participate, often on baseless information which could have been resolved months ago. The last-minute challenges raised questions of due process, stoked fears that Dunbar might try to slate the credentials report , and resulted in an appeal of the convention  demanding that party leaders intervene to stop Dunbar’s challenges and seat all qualified delegates.
State Party Chairman John Whitbeck was forced to step in , warning District Chairman Scott Sayre that:
“In addition, I caution any members of the credentials committee who might be considering the exclusion of entire delegations of voters. If you are inclined to do so, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney immediately. Rest assured, the Republican Party of Virginia will not expend resources to defend anyone who seeks to disenfranchise delegates.”
Sayre has repeatedly defended the delegate challenges brought by his former employee, Cynthia Dunbar , and refused to intervene to protect delegates who support candidates other than himself and Dunbar.
Whitbeck later followed up with a specific list of concerns  about the exclusion, concluding to Sayre that, “A lot of delegates do not feel welcome at your convention right now and we are going to do everything we can to ensure that changes.”
While RPV was working to seat delegates, the Dunbar campaign was actively working to unseat them and defended the controversial actions of the credentials committee to party leaders.
In a response to this previously-reported email  from John Whitbeck, credentials chairman Charlie Nave defended the procedures, prompting Whitbeck to insist that party rules protected the delegates:
On Thursday, May 10, 2018, 10:06 PM, VAGOP Chairman <[REDACTED]> wrote:
Please cite your authority for the below procedures. Specifically, please cite the Roberts Rules, RPV Party Plan or Virginia Code section that provides a basis for this.
John Whitbeck, Chairman
Republican Party of Virginia
According to shared emails, Dunbar campaign team member Diana Shores dismissed Whitbeck’s concerns and insisted that the State Party Plan and Robert’s Rules did not protect the delegates, writing:
On Thu, May 10, 2018 at 10:09 PM Diana Shores <[REDACTED]> wrote:
Please direct Mr. Nave to the section of the SPP and Robert’s Rules citing that this procedure is NOT allowed.
This prompted a harsh response from RPV executive Director John Findlay:
On Thursday, May 10, 2018, 10:45 PM, John Findlay <[REDACTED]> wrote:
I was unaware that a credentials committee could hear challenges, disqualify or certify delegates prior to a temporary chair being elected. I could understand how you might be able to do so with a statewide convention but given there are no permanent committees, I think any action would be entirely premature. It would almost be like passing rules, let’s use a plurality vote rule as a random example, for a convention in a call instead of giving the convention the chance to vote on them.
If any committee is going to try to disenfranchise voters based on challenges which hinge on the inability to read to past article 1, section A, Paragraph 4 of the Party Plan, I really hope they have a ton of money for legal fees.
Just my two cents.
Shores continued her push to exclude and invoked a defense of controversial rules changes  which sought to exclude children from the floor, which bizarrely banned campaigning on the floor, and which even prevented radio host John Fredericks from broadcasting live as he did at the 2016 state convention where three times as many filed delegates were accommodated in the same venue without problems.
On Thu, May 10, 2018 at 10:57 PM Diana Shores <[REDACTED]> wrote:
John, How is it different from checking with the registrar to be sure prefiles are in order before a mass meeting? Shouldn’t the arrangements committee be working ahead of time to gather information, and remedy issues, before the meeting, so that once the permanent credentials commmittee is in place solid determinations can be made.
Thank you for your two cents and advisement on that matter Mr. Findlay. I applaud the late night working hours of the RPV.
Now as for the media placement, the seating of guests and children, where does Roberts Rules and the State Party Plan come into play? On what grounds does Mr. Whitbeck give his guidance other than “it’s unprecedented.” I think it would be helpful as guidance to cite the specific violations to the party plan given the threat of an appeal. We certainly want to be sure Mr. Boyer remedies all the issues before the convention if any remain.
As for any mistakes made, I’m sure folks on this committee have the best of intentions to run a good convention.
Findlay blasted Shores in closing, characterizing Dunbar’s delegate challenges as “totally baseless attacks purposely designed to disenfranchise perfectly eligible delegates.”
On Thu, May 10, 2018 at 11:22 PM John Findlay <[REDACTED]> wrote:
Yes, making a delegate drive, potentially several hours, to a committee meeting on less than one week’s notice simply to defend themselves from accusers who are too lazy to read one additional paragraph down in the Party Plan is a heck of a lot different than checking with the registrar’s office. When you go to the registrar’s office to check pre-files do you send an email to the person your checking saying they are in danger of not being able to attend the mass meeting? I truly hope you didn’t have trouble confusing the two issues.
Considering the vast majority of challenges appear to be totally baseless attacks purposely designed to disenfranchise perfectly eligible delegates, I think the Credentials Committee can wait until there is a temporary Chairman in place to review the ‘challenges.’
I would encourage the arrangements committee to ensure there are credentials for everyone, even those “challenged,” so the Party can avoid a law suit.
Regarding specific violations, there is precedent for overturning results when convention does not sit delegations or wrongly disqualifyies delegates. As an example, a 2006 Chairman’s election was overturned by the SCC in the 3rd Congressional District by contacting the unjustly excluded delegates and polling them to get the results. I really hope RPV doesn’t have to do that this year but if people insist on disqualifying properly filed delegates I’m not sure what other recourse we would have be in such a scenario.
Have a nice night!
As the challenges continue, party leaders continue fighting for the delegates under attack.
Dunbar’s campaign could still attempt to slate the credentials report. The potential for rules fights led five competing campaigns to unify behind Jack Wilson as a temporary convention chairman , who has pledged to run a fair process and appoint a neutral credentials committee.
The current credentials committee entertaining these challenges is controlled by Dunbar, through appointments made by political ally and former employer Chairman Scott Sayre.
Findlay raises an important point, because the right temporary chairman can end many of these convention controversies.
So too can Dunbar, if her campaign relents and drops the baseless delegate challenges.